For our first Weirdo in History, I would like to present…the guy who cut off Napoleon’s penis.
To our modern eyes, it is definitely weird to take body parts from dead people. People already argue over Grandma’s jewelry, can you imagine the fight about who gets a piece of her body? But if you start digging through history you are going to find all sorts of things happening with people’s body parts long after they are dead. In a world without photographs, why not take something to keep their memory alive? A lock of hair or a penis. (Tough decision) The fact that they are famous makes the body parts even more enticing. After all, what are they going to be doing with it? You have to admit that this is a hell of a conversation piece!
Napoleon is not the kind of historical figure that you can sum up in a paragraph or even an article like this. Which is fine because this article is about his penis and not the fact that he spent the early part of the 19th century attempting to be the boss of everyone in Europe. He died in May of 1821 in exile on the island of St. Helena. Though there has been a lot of debate about the cause of his death it was most likely from stomach cancer.
The good news in this story (for Napoleon) is that his penis was removed after his death. The autopsy was completed by his doctor Francois Carlo Antommarchi. Also removed from his body were his heart, stomach, and a few pieces of his ribs. His head was shaved so that his hair could be parceled out.
So what happened to Napoleon’s penis? Supposedly it was given to a priest by the name of Abbe Anges Vignali. It was passed through his family and sold to a few people. Til in 1977 a urologist by the name of John Lattimer purchased it for $3000. Though Dr. Lattimer has passed away, the penis still remains in his family. Can you imagine getting that in the will? I’ll take the china….and I guess, the mummified penis.
The penis in question now resides with the family of Dr. Lattimer. As if Waterloo wasn’t embarrassing enough, it is now located in New Jersey.
Despite the fact that at times the penis was likened to beef jerky or a shriveled eel, it isn’t exactly Napoleon’s fault. It was not preserved properly! He swears. You think that it looks small in the cold, imagine what it looks like when it has spent almost two hundred years drying out!
Dr. Lattimer did xrays and testing that confirmed without a doubt that it is a penis, though of course there is some question as to whether it is Napoleon’s. There were at least 17 people present during the autopsy that Antommarchi performed, yet none of them mention the fact that someone hacked off his penis. It is hard to imagine that in a room full of that many men, none of them would have objected or remarked upon it.
The provenance that comes with the penis is apparently well documented and legit. So who can say for sure if it is Napoleon’s penis? It is weirder and more fun to consider it to be Napoleon’s versus some poor random guy. And if it is some other guy’s penis masquerading as Napoleon’s then bravo to the person who managed to convince everyone it belonged to Napoleon! The real hero of history!
Does it even matter whose penis it is? After all, Napoleon himself said: “History is a myth that men agree to believe.” Granted, I am sure he would have wanted the myth to be more than a 200 year inch and a half dried out penis.
It does beg the question, though what is weirder…that someone cut off his penis or that so many people have purchased it? Most likely, it is the fact that some people chose to write about it on their blog.